Listening well can be one of the most important skills we have. How well we listen has a profound impact on our life and work and on the quality of our relationships with others.
Here are ten lessons I've learned from mindful listening that have helped me to better understand the difference between only hearing someone rather than deeply listening to them.
1. Create space
Pay attention to the urge to speak or offer input too soon. Hold that feeling in your awareness and continue to listen rather than respond too quickly.
2. Don't judge
While judging can be a helpful way to evaluate, maintaining a non-judging, curious attitude can encourage the speaker to relax and be more honest.
3. Give the gift of full presence
Be present. This means redirecting your attention to the speaker and not lingering too long on your thoughts and feelings. This helps us listen without bias and keep a more open mind.
4. Hit the replay button
When the speaker has completely finished talking, before responding in any way, first play back what you've heard. This helps the speaker to know that you have truly listened to them.
5. Notice body language, facial expression
Skillful listening requires more than our ears. There is much we can learn from gently looking into someone's eyes, noting body language and mood.
6. Meet people where they are
Meet people where they are and not where you think they should be. Try to listen with a beginner's mind. From a fresh perspective. Don't allow the stories that exist in your mind to influence how you interpret what you hear.
7. Get out of your own way
Limiting how much we fight and challenge enables us to be more equanimous and peaceful. This increases our capacity for deep listening and insight.
8. Let things unfold naturally
Offer time and space to someone allowing them the opportunity to find solutions themselves. It's empowering and allows others to trust their inner wisdom.
9. Don't fill silence with empty talk
Sometimes silence in a conversation can feel uncomfortable or awkward and we feel compelled to fill the empty space with meaningless words. Next time you experience this, hold this feeling in your awareness with curiosity and openness and don't speak.
10. Put yourself in their shoes
One of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal is empathy. The ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes, gives us a sense of their story and strengthens insight and our ability to listen objectively.
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